To Infinity and the Nearest Black Hole

The Chair of the Astronomy Department at the College of Charleston, Jon Hakkila, hosted us at his office this morning.

He made some rather difficult concepts much easier to understand. We went in loaded with questions regarding Space.  He graciously answered as many as we could throw at him in the limited amount of time we had.

The lead question was posed by LR: “Why is iron the last element created in Steller-neuclearsynthesis?”  This led to discussions of the formation of Hydrogen, Helium, Carbon, Oxygen, Neon, Magnesium, Silicon, and Iron.  The pressures, temperatures, speed, and accretion were all discussed.  The rest of the questions flowed into this discussion.  Dr. Hakkila raised more questions.  Black holes at the center of each galaxy?  What is the difference between black matter and black energy?  How exactly is a degenerate gas held in a stable place?  When a neutron star forms with degenerate neutrons how stable is it really?  Why?

The folks in the department were so fun.  As we were leaving, they gave us balsa wood planes and tattoos.  Immediately upon arriving back out came the planes and the hacks began.  As soon as lessons were done for the day, the children flew out the front door with a stepping stool.  They stood on it and launched their creations while BR gave play by play.

Even the little guys got into the action.

DW won for most dramatic pose.

BW was extremely dramatic in his launching.

LR and JV discussing the best method for release of the plane.

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